Vacation rental sites to make — and save — money – The San Diego Union-Tribune

It’s vacation season, which means that Americans are trolling websites to find good deals on lodging, cars, watercraft and RVs. That makes it a perfect time for you to list your spare assets on vacation rental sites.
However, it’s worth noting that some of the best-established vacation rental sites are poor places to list — and book — a rental. That’s simply because some sites take too much of the gross for themselves, depressing earnings for owners and discouraging renters with exorbitant prices.
Which sites are worth your time?
If you’re looking to rent out your home — or if you need a home to rent — three sites stand out. Those are industry leader, Airbnb, SabbaticalHomes and Trusted Housesitters. However, Airbnb is only recommended for relatively short-term stays, such as a week or less, or inexpensive rentals. The reason? Fees.
While Airbnb keeps fees low for hosts at just 3%, the site charges visitors nearly 15%. That means the host pays $30 for each $1,000 in revenue. But the guest pays $150. When you’re renting an inexpensive room for a short stay, those fees won’t break the bank. But if you have an expensive house that you’d like to rent for long stretches, the fees are a bigger issue.
Consider someone who wants to rent a $500 home for two weeks. The total rental amount is $7,000. The host pays Airbnb $210, walking away with $6,790. But the renter pays $1,041 — roughly the cost of two nights lodging. That hikes the guest’s cost to $8,041. Since $1,000 can be a deal-breaker, some potential guests would simply look for a cheaper rental. But the better option may be to simply list that type of rental on a platform that charges less, such as SabbaticalHomes.
SabbaticalHomes, which caters to educators, charges a simple annual listing fee, plus a “match fee.” The listing fee is $60 if you are an educator (current or retired) and $85, if you’re not. A match fee of $50 is paid by both homeowner and renter.
For the previously mentioned two-week rental, the homeowner would pay between $110 and $135 and the renter pays just $50. Everyone goes home with more. Specifically, the homeowner takes home $6,865 vs. $6,790 with Airbnb. And the renter pays just $7,050 vs. $8041.
Moreover, SabbaticalHomes’ listing fee is an annual expense, not a per-booking expense. So any additional rentals during the same year would cost the host just the $50 match fee. The one short-coming of this site is that it does not collect rent for you. Homeowners collect rent directly from renters.
Notably, there are several other sites that also charge flat-fees, including HomeEscape, BeachHouse and WeNeedAVacation. But all of them charge more than SabbaticalHomes, with flat fees ranging from $199 to more than $400 annually.
If you don’t rent out your home when you go on vacation because you have pets and want pet sitters to watch them at home, there’s an option that can save you a fortune.
A site called TrustedHousesitters allows vacationers to swap pet-sitting duties for free accommodations. For those planning a long vacation, this can provide a huge savings for both host and guest. The site charges a membership fee. However, this fee is likely to be a fraction of what you’d spend on pet-sitters and accommodations otherwise.
The typical Rover house sitter, for instance, charges somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 a night. Kennels often charge more. So a couple boarding two dogs for a two-week vacation is likely to spend $700 on pet sitters while they’re away. Meanwhile, that same couple would probably pay at least $100 a night — or considerably more — for even relatively modest accommodations. In other words, this hypothetical couple would spend a minimum of $2,800 on rooms and pet-sitting for their two-week vacation.
TrustedHousesitters, meanwhile, charges $189 for a “combined” membership, which gives you the ability to advertise for a house sitter to stay at your home while you’re away — and to act as a house sitter yourself in whatever country you’re visiting. The site has literally thousands of houses available to sit in Europe, Oceana, Canada and the U.S.
Only need house-sitters? The basic “pet-parent” membership is just $129. And all memberships are annual, so you can engage an unlimited number of pet-sitters or accommodations for the same price.
If you have a recreational vehicle, there are several good sites where you can list its availability for rent, including Outdoorsy, RVShare and RVnGo. Owners set their own prices and determine the rules of the rental, such as whether you allow smoking and/or pets. You can also offer optional add-ons, such as camp chairs, easy-ups and other gear.
While all three sites offer viable ways to rent out your RV, our favorite of the three is Outdoorsy. The reasons? The site inspects vehicles, offers roadside assistance and a $1 million insurance policy. That gives renters a lot of assurance that they’ll have a good experience and gives owners greater confidence that their RV won’t end up stranded on some backroad.
The site’s competitors offer some of the same services, but for an additional cost. And owner and renter reviews are far more positive with Outdoorsy than with its competitors.
Notably, for renters, peer-to-peer rental sites often provide wider variety in both the type of vehicles available for rent and in price. Outdoorsy’s Los Angeles rentals, for example, offer everything from a 13-foot trailer that sleeps two for $60 nightly, to a 24-foot Airstream that sleeps 8 for $250 a night.
If you’ve got a spare car sitting around, you can earn a lot of semi-passive income by making it available to rent through a site called Turo.
Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental service that allows you to list cars for rent, setting your own price, availability and terms. The site markets the car on its website and provides insurance in exchange for a commission. Turo’s commission rate depends on the amount of insurance coverage you, the vehicle owner, choose for your car. Buyers can also buy insurance coverage to protect them from having to cover deductibles and losses that are excluded under their own policies.
Vehicle owners say they regularly earn more than $1,000 per car, per month with this site — particularly now that car rental prices have soared. At the same time, Turo rentals tend to be slightly less expensive than renting from sites like Avis and Hertz.
Got a pool?
Swimply will help you rent it out by the hour to people desperate for a dip. Owners set their own rates and terms, such as pool capacity and whether swimmers can use other facilities — i.e. barbecues and bathrooms.
Finally, this also is when vacationers head to the water — whether that’s beaches, lakes or rivers.And a variety of peer-to-peer boat rental sites can help you rent out your boat — or find a boat to rent. Three well-regarded sites operate in this space — BoatSetter, GetMyBoat and LakeHop. All three allow owners to set both their hourly rental rates and terms, such as minimum rental periods; whether the boat must be rented with a seasoned captain; and whether smoking and pets are allowed on board.Most of these sites will also allow you to rent out kayaks, paddle boards, and offer water-based excursions ranging from surf lessons to fishing trips.
Kristof is the editor of, an independent website on the gig economy.
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